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6 Ski Trips You Can Drive To

Because really, who wants to fly anywhere right now?

Ski trips are a rite of passage and part of the culture of being a skier. What’s not to love about exploring a new snow-covered zone on skis? This year, ski trips will look quite a bit different. You likely aren’t planning a powder-chasing trip to Japan in January or heading north to Canada for that hut trip you’d booked a year ago. (Remember a year ago? It feels like an eternity ago.)

You don’t have to go far to get the feel of a ski trip. An hour from your house, there might be a little ski area or a new backcountry zone you’ve never checked out before. This is the winter we discover our own backyards. To help get you thinking, we’ve got some ideas for off-the-radar ski areas worth checking out this winter, or another year down the road. Be sure to check state travel restrictions before you go and read up on the latest updates from the ski resort you’re planning to visit—many will require advance reservations or have capacity limits.

The Southwest

This road trip takes you to some of the finest ski hills in the southwest. From Denver, Colorado, it’s around a 5-hour drive to Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico, which has some of the steepest terrain you’ll find anywhere. When the Sangre de Cristo range gets snow, this is the place to be. This winter, Taos will be operating at a 50 percent capacity for crowds, so you’ll need to buy lift tickets well in advance to secure your spot on the mountain and Ikon Pass holders will need to make a reservation to use their days here. For a slight detour, it’s two hours south to hit up Ski Santa Fe, a low-key spot that’s known for its on-hill green chile and popular dawn patrol uphilling routes. (Note: Be sure to check New Mexico’s current state travel restrictions before you go, if you’re traveling from out of state.)

Next, hit up Wolf Creek Ski Area, four hours north just across the Colorado border. This place typically gets dumped on early season and it doesn’t see half the crowds of other Colorado ski areas. This winter, Wolf Creek plans to be open for skiing but will have all amenities (lodges, rentals, lessons) closed, and lift tickets will only be sold online ahead of time.

The West Coast

A drive along California’s Highway 395, along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, is worth it just for the views of the peaks and the vast desert-like expanses. Even if you’re not a skier, you’ll enjoy the hot springs and desolation you can find out here. If you are a skier, even better. Head to June Mountain three hours from Tahoe or five hours from San Francisco, for a flashback to another era. You’ll find rolling groomers and a couple of steep shots off the top of the mountain, as well as stellar views overlooking the Sierra. Something you won’t find? Crowds.

Next, hit up the iconic steeps of Mammoth Mountain, which yes, sees a lot of people but also has 3,500 acres for everyone to spread out. Both Mammoth and June are on the Ikon Pass and both are not currently requiring reservations. Afterward, it’s a three-hour drive to the tiny ski area of Bear Valley. On a storm day, there’s plenty of powder in the trees here and not a soul around.

The PNW

Crossing north into Canada likely won’t be an option this year, but that’s okay when the Pacific Northwest has plenty of good spots within a few hours away—and many of the ski resorts here allow RV camping at the base. Start at Stevens Pass, Washington, less than two hours from Seattle, which is on the Epic Pass and does require reservations. The RV lot at the base of Stevens allows overnight camping—you’ll need to make a reservation for that, too.

Mission Ridge is just an hour and a half away and it’s a sweet little hill for families and shredders alike, and yep, you can camp in your your van or RV here, too. From there, it’s three hours to White Pass, which also has a slopeside RV lot and a laid-back local vibe. Both White Pass and Mission Ridge are members of the Powder Alliance, so if you have a full season pass to any of the partner resorts, you get three free days at any of the rest.

Mission Ridge

Mission Ridge

The East Coast

For backcountry skiers, Bolton Valley, Vermont—located three hours from Boston—has heaps of cool offerings: lessons, gear rental, and guided outings for those just getting started and one-up lift tickets, a backcountry hut you can rent overnight, and a liberal open-boundary policy into 1,200 acres for those who know what they’re doing. It’s less than an hour from there to Mad River Glen, where a one-person chairlift takes you to rugged, steep terrain that fits the area’s motto of “Ski It If You Can.” (Again, be sure to read up on Vermont’s travel restrictions before planning a trip from out of state.)

Three hours away in western Massachusetts, Berkshire East has the most skiable terrain in the state (and it’s also the first ski resort in the world to generate all of its own power on site from renewable sources. Cool, huh?). Read up on Massachusetts’ travel guidelines, too. Bolton Valley and Berkshire East are both on the Indy Pass, which, for $199, gets you two days of skiing at more than 50 off-the-beaten-path ski areas.

The Mountain West

If you’ve got an Ikon Pass, Utah has five resorts you can visit in as many days: Solitude, Brighton, Alta, Snowbird, and Deer Valley. You can’t go wrong at any of those places. And if you hit it right, those destinations can deliver the deep, cold powder you’ve been dreaming about since last March.

The backcountry terrain in the Wasatch is legendary for a reason. If you don’t know your way around or you’re new to the backcountry, hire a mountain guide from our friends at Inspired Summit Adventures—they know the terrain as well as anyone and will find you the goods. Base yourself out of Little Cottonwood Canyon—snag a room at the Alta Lodge or Peruvian Lodge and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Yep, that's Alta

The Midwest

Whoever said there wasn’t good skiing in Michigan has never skied in the U.P., which gets the most snowfall of anywhere in the state. What this zone may lack in vertical rise it more than makes up for with an abundance of character and soul. Head to Mount Bohemia, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and roughly six hours from both Milwaukee and Minneapolis. This place gets an average of 270 inches of snow a year (that’s a decent amount of snow, even by Western standards).

Marquette Mountain, two and a half hours away, isn’t big but the views of Mount Superior from the top sure are nice. And for backcountry skiers, the Huron Mountains near Marquette have relatively easy access to some fun tree skiing.


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